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Re-purposing: Reversible Boy’s Vest from Old Trousers

I read all of your comments and questions regarding the sewing tips post (found here).  I will be answering some of the questions in upcoming “sewing tips” posts and will try and leave a comment back at the post to answer some others.  Love the eagerness to tackle those sewing machines.  Eeeeh.
Oh, and some of you asked if I’d still be blogging here now that I use facebook and twitter.  And the answer is yes, of course I will.  This is my main hub.  My safety net.  My little comfort zone.  No worries…….nothing will change here. :)
. . . . . . .
I found a pair of trousers at the thrift store more than a year ago (back when we lived in Idaho) that I wanted to use for this project.
My memory is a fragile little thing.  It completely forgot that I wanted to make my little buddy a vest.
When I dug the trousers out of a stash the other day……..I dropped some other projects and got to work.  Typical.
But oooooh, I’m so glad I did.
What could be more irresistible than a little fella in a dapper little vest…
Not even a scheduled massage at the local spa, I tell ya. 
(Except I have that knot in my lower back that could really use some magic. Hmmmm.)
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And since we’re going to the trouble……why not make it reversible?
2 vests in 1. Fantastic.
Ha…..look!  He’s totally pumped to be wearing a new re-purposed vest…….or, well, maybe just happy to be outside running around.  (Who am I kidding?)
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And don’t be scared to tackle this one……..they’re only faux pockets.
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The vest can be worn on either side, buttoned up or down, with a tie, or maybe a bowtie,………or nothing at all.
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Whatever you choose……..
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…….he’ll be as cute as ever.
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And you’ll be so pleased to have used an old pair of trousers.
Or even use your favorite fabric…
Either way, you’ll be happy.
**The tie was made from the tie pattern available in my shop here

Ready to make your own reversible vest?

Here are the thrifted pants from my stash.  Do you have some stored away?
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I also used an old pair of my husband’s dress pants for the inner vest material.
I love not spending a penny on fabric!
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I started by creating a paper pattern piece to use for the back shape of the vest.  I used a little Tshirt as a size guide and cut out 2 arm holes and a neck hole.  (Make sure to not make your vest too small.  Knits are sometimes harder to pattern after because they stretch and fit differently than a non-stretch material.  So keep this in mind if using a Tshirt as a guide.)

I also measured my son’s torso and decided ahead of time that I wanted the vest to be about 12 inches long.  So keep that in mind as you’re making the paper pattern.

Then fold this pattern piece in half and trace around the entire thing onto a new piece of paper.  This will be used as a reference for your 2 front pieces.
Then onto creating the 2 front vest pieces.
You can see my original shape in the photo below and then some new adjusted lines around it.
(you may have to click on the image to view it larger and see the lines better…….sorry the lines aren’t darker)
What I did was:
  • extended the inner edge on the left out 3/4 of an inch to allow for an overlap for the buttons (upper arrow on left).
  • measured on my son’s chest where I wanted the “V” to dip on his chest and measured down that far on my pattern, made a mark and then drew a straight line to create a new neck line (upper arrow on right).
  • decided where I wanted the points along the bottom to go on the vest (off center, a little towards the center), measured down an inch from the bottom edge of the original drawing, and then placed a dot to mark my spot (orange circle below).
  • drew 2 lines from each corner of the vest to meet the dot, creating a new bottom edge to the vest (2 lower arrows).
If you didn’t add a seam allowance to your pattern piece, make sure to eyeball a seam allowance very carefully as you’re cutting.  You don’t want to forget that seam allowance!
Then I cut 2 front pieces and 1 back piece out of one pair of pants and the same out of the other pair of pants.  (Make sure if your fabric has a wrong and right side, that you flip the front pattern piece over before cutting your second piece.)
If you don’t have enough width on the trousers to create your vest back piece, fold the back vest pattern piece in half, and cut two back vest pieces and sew them together down the center.  (Be sure to add a seam allowance along the center back, so that you can sew the two pieces together without making the back piece more narrow.  Then sew together and then zig-zag to secure edges in place.  Or serge it.)
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You should now have 2 main back pieces and 4 front pieces.
Next, lay your main back piece face up and then the 2 front pieces face down, line up the sides and sew along each side.  Zig-zag or serge to finish off raw edges.
Do the same to the inner fabric.
Now you have 2 separate pieces……….an outer vest fabric and an inner vest fabric.  Lay the 2 section together, with right sides together and line up all the outer edges.  Pin in place.
Then sew the 2 pieces together along the neck hole, the 2 arm holes, the 2 sides and then along the 2 pointed bottom edges.  Leave the straight bottom edge and the 4 shoulder areas open.
Then trim off any pointy corners…
And clip the curve of the neck……..


And clip the curves of each arm hole…
**Unsure about why you need to trim corners and clip curves?  Read this sewing tip here.
Then turn the vest right side out through the bottom opening.
Poke out any pointed corners and iron the vest flat, making sure to fold the raw edges of the bottom toward the inside.
Now, we need to attach each shoulder piece to create the actual arm holes.  If you’re looking at the vest from the front, grab the front shoulder piece on the right and unpick the very top of the seam on the left, a few stitches.
Then turn under these raw edges  however much you’ve been using as a seam allowance (mine was 3/8 inch) and press edges towards the inside.
These images are now over on the left shoulder piece because I forgot to finish photographing the steps on the right shoulder piece (sorry if this confuses you).  But slide the back shoulder piece inside of the front shoulder piece that has a nice folded under edge.  (You’ll slide in the length of your seam allowance that you have been using.)
Pin in place and do to both sides.
Then hand-stitch the shoulder pieces in place, using a blind stitch.  (Need help?  Click here.)
Then use the same blind-stitch to secure the bottom of the vest closed.
Onto the little faux pockets.
Cut out two rectangle pieces to be used for the little flaps.  Mine were 4 inches wide by 3 inches tall.
Fold in half lengthwise and sew along each end (I used a 1/4 inch seam allowance).
Then turn right side out, poke out corners and iron flat.
Then place the flaps along the front of the vest with the raw edges facing down.  Pin in place.
Sew a stitch an 1/8 of an inch from the bottom raw edge……..
Then fold the flap over and sew 2 seams near the top, to keep the flap folded over in place.
Then add your button holes and buttons.
If you’re making this vest reversible…….you’ll need buttons along the other side too.  There may be another way to get buttons along each side but here’s what I did.  I put a knot in the end of my thread, began the needle at the knot that’s there from the button that’s on the other side, then slid my button on.
I stitched through the button like normal but angled the needle as it was coming out the other side, to avoid the button that was on the other side.
Then I pushed the needle back through, trying to keep the thread hidden behind the button on that other side, and came out one of the button holes again.  I did this a few times until the button was secure.
Then, my next predicament was attaching the flaps on this side.
I could have just skipped them but wanted to keep the vest uniform.
**But if you want them (and don’t want to hand sew…..) attach them to your vest pieces before sewing them together.**
But for me, I made the flaps the same size and the same way, but zig-zagged the top raw edges.  Then I folded over the top edge and made the 2 stitches along the top of the flap to make them look like the flaps on the other side.  Then I just hand stitched them to the vest, being careful not to go through all the way to the other side.
(If you sew the flaps to the vest, then you’ll sew through the original flaps from the other side.  Make sense?)


And that is it.
Your little vest is complete.
And can be worn on this side……..
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Or the other……..
Something special for the little fellas.
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Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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  1. Maria McGrath says:

    Thanks so much for this great tutorial. I used my own pattern pieces, but I like sewing everything but the shoulders much better than turning rightside out through the sides.

  2. KChu says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! Made one with matching pants for my 8 month old to wear at a wedding. Its absolutely adorable. Your instructions and photos are so clear and easy to follow. Love your site :)

  3. Meg D says:

    A tip for the buttons: use buttons with the same number of holes/spacing and sew them on in pairs. First, knot your thread and stitch through to the “front” side of your vest, slide the front button on the needle as usual and stitch back through the button and vest and pull snug. Your needle will now be on the “back” or interior of the vest. Second, slide the “back” button onto the needle and stitch through the button as for the front button. When you stitch through the vest in this step you will be aiming for the original knot/stitch mark you made in step one, so you go through the hole of the button on the front side. Third, continue sewing through the matching holes of the buttons for all remaining holes and fasten off. Repeat for remaining button pairs.

  4. Erica says:

    I just made this for my 6-year-old for his school’s Colonial week next week– I used some old linen pants and an old khaki skirt for the lining, and it came together really well! I was able to cut the back piece of the vest out of the bottom of one of the pant legs– just folded the pattern in half and lined it up with the edge of the leg so I’d have one wide piece when I unfolded it, and I got to keep the neat seam detail from the leg so it now runs down the middle of the back of the vest. Thanks for an awesome tutorial. :)

  5. ann says:

    Thank you so much for such concise instructions. I was able to make a vest for my little boy within 2 tays for his class presentation. I was hesitant at first because I don’t sew much. But talk about a confidence booster. The vest turned out handsomely! Thank you again!

  6. eccbabe7 says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I had gotten stumped trying to do my own reversible vest and your ideas helped me through it. What a cute idea.

  7. Randon says:

    This is a more understandable way of how to make a vest. Thank you for very good explanation. Once I get my sewing machine, I shall make a vest.

  8. Rebeca says:

    I love how you explain in detail! LOve it love it love it! Thank you so much

  9. Annie says:

    Used this tutorial to make part of my little boy’s hobbit Halloween costume! Thanks so much!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    you are super mom! You are good! thank god for creative people like you. you truly motivated me to work on another sewing project.!!! love you! i love it!

  11. Swati says:

    wow ur amazing…thnx soo very much for these gr8 ideas!! :)

  12. M.T. Amerson says:

    I’m glad I stumbled upon your tutorial. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer living in Rwanda. I picked up some igitenge (traditional fabric) from the market because I wanted to have a vest made. I figure that a vest is classier than a lot of the clothing I’ve seen other men wear made from igitenge, which usually ends up looking like pajamas. After reading your tutorial, I think that I am going to go get another pattern and some buttons and make the vest myself.

    This will be an ambitious project as I have no sewing experience, nor access to a sewing machine. But I am confident in my ability to create! Thanks for a good starting point!

  13. Caitlin says:

    I’ve been wanting to try this for ages and finally made one for my 2 year old to wear on Easter. Thanks for such great projects! I linked to your site on my blog where I posted about the vest. You can see it here:

  14. Amy says:

    When I saw the date of this post I originally thought, WHAT AMAZING TIMING! But then realised that we are now in 2012… saying that it is a coincidence as I need to make something for my 7mo for a wedding next weekend… with an old pair of work trousers and scrap material from the groomsmen’s ties at our own wedding, I think we are set!

    (Combining this idea with this

    Thank you for posting!!

  15. Mary B says:

    I just can’t believe how excited I was to find this tutorial. A friend was needing a boys vest to be part of a wedding party, and asked if she thought I could use the fabric from an old bridesmaid dress that had been in her closet for years. So I found your instructions and followed them. This is the “almost” finished product:
    Just need to add some tabs and buttons/buttonholes. Thanks so much!

  16. Wendy says:

    Thank you SO much for your wonderful tutorial!!! I have wanted to make these for a while now but was afraid to make my own pattern. Well, it was much easier than I expected!! I messed up a couple times on making the pattern part but I just kept trying :) Just as a note, I would also have added the pocket tabs before sewing the 2 halves together so I could have machine stitched them on, but I didn’t think of it until later, so I left them off. I also machine sewed the opening, but the shoulders really needed the hand stitches~ it made them look very professional! Thank you SO so much! I made these vests for Halloween~ toddler Draculas :) Blogged & photo here~

  17. Mary B says:

    ADORABLE….thanks for the very detailed instructions. They are foolproof for those of us that are beginners! Thanks again!

  18. Linda G. says:

    I my goodness, the vest is super cute and your littler mister, too! I am so glad that there are tutes for little misters now that I have a little man myself. :D

  19. Shandi says:

    Thank you so much for the Tutorial! You make them so easy to follow! I love that you make them reversible, no reason in putting a liner, when you can just wear it both ways! I made 2 so far for my nephews. I posted them here: with a link back to your site!
    Thanks again!

  20. Nancy says:

    Thank you Ashley! The tute was so easy to follow along, I made a vest for my son for my sister’s wedding. I’ve posted it here:

  21. Erica {B is for Boy} says:

    Good morning! I wanted to let you know I linked to this tutorial in a post I'm doing on boys dress up for Easter clothes. You can check out the post here:

  22. Irwin Family says:

    I love this tutorial, I'll be using it for my sons Easter vest.

  23. Danielle @ says:

    Great tutorial, thanks! Now I just have to decide between this or the suspenders for Easter :-)

  24. Anonymous says:

    What a cutie pie. I'll keep this on file for my little boy.

  25. rainajane says:

    Love this and was very very easy to follow! Took me 5 hours but I completed it and I am well pleased! thank you so much for this great tutorial!

  26. Mandy Coffey says:

    This is adorable! i'm featuring this today!!!!

  27. The Clip Cafe says:


  28. Chris at says:

    What a great project! I'm looking forward to making one of these vests. Your directions were very clear and easy to follow. Thank you for taking the time to make this one of your best posts!

  29. Sue says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. I have made a couple of vest many years ago but I never felt confident I was doing the shoulders right. I see here you did exactly how I did. I am thankful to see that and now I may try more.

  30. CherishedBliss says:

    This is awesome! Very creative! Can't wait to try it.

  31. mummy-who-cooks says:

    Greeting from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    Fantastic. You made it looks so easy.. Love it, thanks for sharing.

  32. The Walker Family says:

    Thank you so much for the great instructions! I am getting ready to make my sons baby blessing out fit and wasnt sure how to make the vest so thank you so much!!!

  33. Stacey,momof 2 says:

    Love this …. and I shared it with a sewing friend on Facebook!

    yahhoooo! thank you!

    and your young man is SO CUTE!

  34. Sarah says:

    So Cute! I can't wait to do this!

  35. tiny dancer says:


  36. Jenny! says:

    Wow…that is HEAVY duty!! Major project!! I would love to get this good!! LOL but for now I still need to finish my quilt and then try the ruffle scarf you made! :)

  37. Sara says:

    Wow! How creative. Your pictures and instructions are done so well! I've been admiring your work for a while, but finally have the courage to comment…it's kind of putting yourself out there.

  38. Amanda says:

    I featured this over at Today's Top 20!!

  39. famr_4evr says:

    Oh wow!! I looked and looked for a vest for my son (he wanted one since his older brother has one) and couldn't find one anywhere in his size! I am totally going to make him one. This is a wonderful tutorial!! Thanks!

  40. Cara says:

    So so cute! I love the vest and I want to make one for my fiance — I'll need some big pants though!

  41. These Are The Days says:

    That is brilliant, and the little guy is so dang cute. I also love the tie pic on your banner. Love your blog!

  42. JC says:

    So adorable! And the vest is cute, too. ;)

  43. Barbara says:

    How gosh darn cute is your lil fella!!! Gorgeous! And that vest is fab, if my 4 yo stops running madly through the house for long enough I may just attempt that!

  44. Lara says:


    I LOVE this! I posted about it on my blog:

    Check it out!
    Thanks for your awesome tutorials!

  45. threeladybugsliketoplay says:

    so sweet! The little ladybug's would look so cute in one! Love it.

  46. Ellie Cutler says:

    Oh my goodness! You make me want a boy! Maybe I'll find some girly pants so I can make one for my little girl…

  47. Dani Daniels says:

    Thanks for the kick in the pants! Here's my version

  48. Amy says:

    Awesome! Thank so much for posting!

  49. Crystal says:

    LOVE IT!!! Thanks for doing a little boy project – I have one boy and another boy on the way and love it when there are crafts for boys :) Thanks! Oh and we're still loving the ties I made from your pattern – by far the best tie anywhere we go!

  50. GaMtnScrap says:

    OH MY GOSH! How cute is he and that vest!! Great job!

  51. Krista says:

    Your vest is quite cute….but your little man??? DARLING!

  52. Leslie says:

    My son (6) is always complaining that I make things for his sister (4) and never him! This will be the perfect project, he'll be so excited! I'm going to the DI right now to see if I can find some pants!! :)

  53. Genevieve says:

    ok so 2 yrs ago, i rescued multiple pairs of too small church pants from my in-laws di pile (a big family of boys!). i knew that i loved the fabric and it would be perfect for some sort of little boy project and would someday want them. well we have just found out we're having a little boy (95% sure!) next june and this is just the project for those pants! how cute would a little vest be for next christmas' outfit? thank you so much for sharing! i'll definitely be trying this one once the morning sickness is gone! :)

  54. bethanndodd says:

    ADORABLE! I think my 4-year old needs one of these! Thanks so much for sharing your creativity with us!

  55. Wani says:

    This is freakin' adorable!! SO CUTE! I definitely want to make some for my boys! Thanks for sharing!

  56. Anonymous says:

    This is so sweet and you little guy is just adorable.

  57. Ashley says:

    Amber……eeek, yes, I forgot to mention that. Yes, you can add the faux pockets before sewing the two pieces together. I had already sewn my pieces together before deciding to add the pockets. I will add that to the tutorial right now. Thanks for the reminder! :)

  58. Nike@ChooseToThrive says:

    Adorable! Perfect for my little guys!

  59. Catherine says:

    I am SO happy to see a project for the little fellas. I've been wanting to put my boys in vests ever since seeing There Will Be Blood. I can't wait to give this a try. Thank you!

  60. Jessica says:

    I don't have any cute little boys but I want to make one for myself!!!! Hmmmm. It might be a bit more difficult due to the chest area and needing darts but it's worth a try! Awesome design!

  61. Keriann says:

    ok that is too adorable! And can I just say that your little guy is too cute! So handsome!

  62. sjones says:

    Sew cute;)
    I see you got a serger, What kind is it?

  63. Pastiche says:

    Hip fashions for a little boy or a wee girl with Annie Hall style. Great tutorial – I've added a link to this from my Hip Baby Boutique page at Squidoo.

  64. Brandon and Brittany says:

    Thank you for this. Absolutely adorable. I have your tie pattern from your etsy shop and am always getting compliments on it. I can't wait to make my boys some vests. (I'm a sucker for adorable church clothes)Thank you for sharing.

  65. Kasey says:

    Adorable! Man I need to learn how to sew.

  66. inday_adin says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I have a little boy and I would like to try to make one for him. It will be cute! :) Your little boy sure looks dapper! :)

    Adin B

  67. Sharon says:

    What a great idea! I I am going to have to try this for my boys, thanks for sharing!!

  68. jessicakbarrett says:

    I know a little boy who is going to get one of these to wear on Easter:) How cute. Thanks for the tutorial!

  69. Hele says:

    he is sooooooooo cute!!!!!

    he looks great with his tie, his vest and his "coiffure"

  70. Lori says:

    So so cute!!! Totally jealous of your sewing skills!

  71. Jennifer says:

    Very cute!!! (I wish I sewed…and had a boy…LOL!)

    And your model is quite the natural! GQ in his future?

  72. Amber says:

    Great tutorial! If I had a little guy I would be all over this one! Also, what about sewing the fax pockets on before you start piecing together??? It would save a hadn stitching step.

  73. Barb says:

    This is so adorable. With 3 grandsons, I'm always happy to find "boy" things to sew. Thanks for sharing and the great pictures.

  74. Jamie says:

    Another way to sew a vest closed that has easier/less hand sewing:
    Sew the fronts to the back at the shoulder seams for the lining and the main fabric – you will have 2 vests now. Place them right sides together. Sew the armholes together leaving the side seams open. Starting at the bottom of the side seam, sew across the front hem, center front, neckline and then down the other center front, and hem, ending at the bottom of the other side seam. Sew across the back hem line leaving a large enough hole at the center or just off center to turn the vest. Clip all the curves and turn right side out. Here is the confusing, hard to explain without pictures part! Lay the vest as if you were going to wear it – with the front stacked on the back, lining up the side seams. Reach in through the hole at the back hem and grab the side seam and pull it inside out. You should end up with two circles of fabric inside one another with the linings together and the main fabrics together. Stitch this in a circle all the way around making sure to match the hem seams. Turn right side out and you magically have one side seam sewn. Repeat for the other side. Then hand stitch the hole in the back. Ta da! Please let me know if that makes sense! You really just have to try it to see how it works

    1. Janet Fitzmayer says:

      I use this technique too. Except i hate handsewing so much that i sew both my side seams with the machine through the opening in the centre back and then top stitch around the entire vest for a finished look…

    2. Janet Fitzmayer says:

      oops i meant i top stitch around the entire vest for a finshed look whilst closing the centre back opening..

    3. Stephanie says:

      Thank you so much for this tip. Just did it and it worked fabulously! Now I’m going to try not to mess it up with my topstitching and buttonholes!

      And thanks for the great tutorial. Very clear and for a novice I had no trouble. Just made my little man a matching vest from the fabric I used for my daughter’s holiday dresses.

    4. Kirsten says:

      I know this is an old post but I just had to share how helpful it was to me. My husband requested vests for our boys for Easter and he wanted his own to match. I have never sewn with a pattern but after reading the step-by-step instructions I felt like enough of an expert to strike out on my own and even make some changes. My vests turned out SO cute. I had to post as a reply to this comment because I hate hand sewing so I followed the steps given by Jamie to minimize hand sewing. They worked PERFECTLY!! Yes, it is confusing to try to understand the two circles but when I pulled the fabric through there they were. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  75. Malory says:

    This is super cute, and you made this so easy to follow! Thanks!


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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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